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US Announces Plan to Combat Global Organized Crime

November 4, 2011

The Obama administration has announced a new plan to crack down on international organized crime groups.

An executive order authorizes new sanctions against criminal cartels in Mexico, Japan, Italy and eastern Europe. The sanctions target Mexico's violent Los Zetas drug gang; Japan's Yakuza, which comprises the major Japanese organized crime syndicates; the Camorra, an Italy-based organized crime network; and The Brothers' Circle, a multi-ethnic criminal group based largely in countries of the former Soviet Union.

In announcing the new strategy Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said transnational organized crime networks are not new. But he said after a wide-ranging review – the first of its kind in 15 years – combating transnational organized crime has never been more urgent. The strategy sets out 56 priority actions aimed at breaking the groups' economic power and protecting the financial system.

Justice Department officials say today's criminal organizations are increasingly sophisticated, know no borders and threaten the stability of the financial system and the promise of a competitive marketplace.

The announcement comes one day after President Barack Obama signed the executive order to impose sanctions on the organizations. In a letter to the U.S. Congress, Mr. Obama said organized crime is no longer a local or regional problem and that it has become a danger to international stability. In the report's foreword, the president said transnational criminal organizations “have taken advantage of our increasingly interconnected world to expand their illicit enterprises.”

The order allows the Treasury Department to take on the international criminal groups by freezing any assets they may have in the United States. U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with them.

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